The folks at Alfred Publications have recently released a three-volume set of books for banjo students, meant to offer meaningful instruction at three levels of study. Video and audio examples of the various lessons taught by author, Ned Luberecki, are available as well.
The three books come together under the title of The Complete 5-String Banjo Method, with individual volumes for Beginning Banjo, Intermediate Banjo, and Mastering Banjo.
We asked Ned to explain what is covered in these books, and he happily complied.
“Beginning Banjo was written with the absolute beginner in mind and covers the basics such as reading TAB, making and changing simple chords and playing some simple but recognizable tunes. The emphasis is on keeping the melody and rhythm clear and strong. There’s also a chapter on clawhammer style and basic banjo maintenance including string changing. Beginning Banjo should take the beginner from zero banjo knowledge to playing knowing how to play some basic bluegrass style tunes using slides, pull-offs and hammer-ons and get someone up to speed on knowing how to learn tunes on their own. A DVD is included in which I play everything that’s in the book.
For the Intermediate book I focused on how to create your own solos and improvise over some familiar chord progressions. My feeling is that once you’ve got the basics (in Beginning Banjo) you should start playing and jamming with other people. That’s where the fun really starts! Intermediate Banjo has the tools to get you moving in that direction. It also includes sections on more advanced backup, chords, more licks and melodic and single string styles. Instead of a DVD, the Intermediate and Mastering books come with a download code for video content that covers everything that’s in the book. (It took a whole week of filming at the Alfred Studios in Los Angeles to get everything filmed, but the videos are very complete and clear. It was a lot of work, but I think it all turned out great!)
For the Mastering book, my approach was to think outside of the Bluegrass box. In today’s world the 5-string banjo is being included and accepted in more styles of music than ever before, so I wanted to give banjo players a good jumping off point in which to join the rest of the musical world. Mastering banjo includes sections on chord construction, major and minor scales in melodic and single string styles, playing in different keys (like A, E, F, Bb) without a capo and some more advanced techniques in combining melodic, Scruggs and single string styles to help banjoists adapt to whatever musical situation they might face. (Of course it’s all applicable to bluegrass as well!)”
Ever the quipster, Ned also says he has no idea who the Stevie Ray Vaughan impersonator may be on the cover. He wasn’t consulted about the image.
The Beginning book is packaged with a DVD, and sells for $24.99, while the other two, which have audio and video examples available online, sell for $19.99. You can find them wherever string music instructional products are sold, and Ned promises to autograph copies ordered from his web site. Sample pages and audio files can be found on the Alfred site.